A celebration of youth, love and joie de vivre through the eyes of Parisian bohemians
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2 hours 15 minutes, 1 intermission 20 minutesLanguage
In Italian, subtitles in Czech, EnglishPremiere
October 23, 2008
Four young Montmartre artists live through love affairs and breakups. Rain-or-shine friends, perennially skint yet happy, live life to the full. Until, that is, death arrives, death all the more tragic in that it takes the girlfriend of one of them. Yet the four Parisian artists’ bonds are eternal. That is how Giacomo Puccini sees it in his renowned opera La bohème, as does Ondřej Havelka, the director of the State Opera production.
The State Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Puccini’s La bohème is one of the most frequently staged operas worldwide. The composer was inspired by the Paris-based painter and writer Henry Murger’s book Scènes de la vie de bohème, which since its publication in 1851 had enjoyed great popularity, and he immediately sensed the enormous dramatic potential in the work. Giacomo Puccini entrusted the text to the librettists and playwrights Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, whom he held in great esteem; their collaboration ranks among the most successful in the history of opera – up there with that between W. A. Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte, or Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The first opera Puccini, Giacosa and Illica worked on together was La bohème, followed by Tosca and Madama Butterfly. It ended with Giacosa’s death in 1906.
La bohème premiered on 1 February 1896 at the Teatro Regio in Turin, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. The opera’s seeming levity, in stark contrast to the then predominant Wagnerism, confused the audience and the critics alike, with the result being a lukewarm response to the first night. Two months later, however, its performance in Palermo was a triumph, and the piece has been a blockbuster ever since. In La bohème – just as later on in Madama Butterfly and Turandot – Puccini brought to bear his mastery in musical rendering of the local colour. The State Opera production, featuring sets by Martin Černý and costumes by Jana Zbořilová, is directed by Ondřej Havelka, who with sensitivity and gentle humour alleviates tragic situations, and amidst an evocative picture of Paris at the end of the 19th century unfolds the story of four young artists for whom friendship is more than a mere word.
By their appearance, attire and behaviour, the audience is obliged to adhere to the accustomed practice expected from them when attending a theatre performance.
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